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Turkish police clamp down on anti-government protests: LIVE UPDATES

Published time: May 31, 2013 22:31
Edited time: July 14, 2013 01:34
A protester throws back a tear gas canister at riot police during clashes between police and demonstrators in the streets adjacent to Taksim square in Istanbul, on June 16, 2013 (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

A protester throws back a tear gas canister at riot police during clashes between police and demonstrators in the streets adjacent to Taksim square in Istanbul, on June 16, 2013 (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

Turkey is gripped by some of the country's worst political uprising in years with protests continue since the end of May. Five people have been killed, thousands injured and scores arrested while Ankara is criticized for its crackdown on the protests.

17:29 GMT: Turkish police have cleared Istiklal Avenue, firing water cannon and tear gas at hundreds of protesters as they gathered to march to Gezi Park. The park has been a cradle of anti-government unrest for weeks.

Demonstrators have been protesting against a recently imposed law which blocked the authority of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) from approving urban planning projects. They gathered at Istiklal Avenue to march to Gezi Park, which is located a short walking distance away.

Saturday, July 13

18:51 GMT: Around 50 people who were detained because of the Gezi park protests in Istanbul began a hunger strike on Wednesday, as prosecutors extended their detention period and the death toll from the Gezi Park incidents rose to five, Turkish media reported.

The move by prosecutors was met with strong public reaction, with the Taksim Solidarity Platform and other human rights organizations and unions calling for the detainees’ immediate release, Radikal, a Turkish daily, reported.

Wednesday, July 10

16:41 GMT: Turkish police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who tried to defy a closure order and enter Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

Protesters take cover from a water cannon during clashes with police on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on July 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

Monday, July 8

15:21 GMT: A Turkish Court has cancelled plans to redevelop Taksim Square, according to court ruling from early June obtained by Reuters. The authorities planned to turn the park into a monument to the Ottoman Empire, which sparked mass protests last month.

The court ruled in early June during the height of the unrest that the government’s plan to rebuild the square broke preservation rules, that it spoiled the square’s identity and broke other regulations, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Protesters gather on Taksim square during a demonsration against the government in Istanbul on June 25, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Wednesday, July 3

15:05 GMT: Kurdish protesters entered violent clashes with security forces in the southeastern province of Sirnak, burning tires and closing off a main road in the Cizre district. Some lobbed firebombs at police forces who tried to suppress the gathering by deploying water cannons and tear gas against the protesters. The demonstrators had been rallying against the killing of an 18 year old by police on Friday.

Sunday, June 30

22:30 GMT: Anti-government protesters rallied in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday night, incorporating solidarity with Friday's Kurdish protester casualties into their agenda. The demonstration was dispersed after a couple of hours following a police warning, as law enforcement used shields to push the crowd away from the square. Water cannon trucks were also present but no water was fired. 

Saturday, June 29

11:00 GMT: Police killed an 18 year old Kurdish protester in in southeastern Turkey and wounded at least 10 others as they fired on a group of around 250 people that was protesting the construction of a gendarmerie outpost in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province.

Friday, June 28

11:00 GMT: Turkish police have detained 20 people in a series of raids throughout the capital Ankara for their alleged involvement in weeks of anti-government protests. Some 30 addresses in total were targeted, with those detained allegedly being members of an unspecified “terrorist” organization, CNNTurk reports. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had previously charged that protesters in the nationwide demonstration were being manipulated by “terrorists.” The operations were reportedly conducted against individuals who had attacked police officers, business and public property. A police spokesperson in the capital was unable to provide any further information on the raids.

Tuesday, June 25 

2:06 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has decried the protester movement during a pro-government rally on Sunday night. He defended the actions of riot police who dispersed protesters on Saturday with water cannons and applauded his supporters for opposing a so-called “plot” against Turkey.

"The people saw this game from the start and frustrated it. They (the protesters) thought the people would say nothing. They said we will burn and destroy and do what we want but the people will do nothing," he said.

Monday, June 24

15:20 GMT: Approximately 2.5 million people have taken to the streets across Turkey since May 31, when a harsh police crackdown against activist’s in Istanbul’s Gezi Park prompted mass nationwide anti-government protests, Hurriyet cites a report by the country’s Interior Ministry as saying.

Major protests were seen in 79 cities, with a majority of the demonstrations taking place in Ankara and Istanbul. Five people have reportedly been killed and around 4,000 injured – including 600 police officers – since the unrest began. Around 4,900 protesters have been detained. The report further says that some 58 public buildings and 337 private businesses were damaged, while 240 police vehicles, 214 private cars, 90 municipal buses and 45 ambulances were left unusable. The total damages are estimated in excess of $72 million.

12:10 GMT:

11:44 GMT: Fifteen protesters were detained after attempting to break through a police cordon to enter Taksim Square on Saturday. The detainees were taken to taken to a police station in Istanbul’s Fatih district for questioning, Sunday’s Zaman reports.

Sunday, June 23

19:30 GMT: Reports of rubber bullets being fired to disperse protesters have emerged. Local channel Artibir tv has shown a live broadcast of police wielding guns.

Police have been shooting people with paint-balls to mark their potential detainees.

19:15 GMT:
The usage of teargas on protesters has been confirmed in Istiklal Street, a road just off Taksim Square. Media crews are beginning to make their way through the streets wearing gas masks. 

"The police has taken the side street, Istiklal. Children have been affected by the gas. It's dark, the gas came."

18:55 GMT:
A handful of reports on Twitter suggest the police have been unleashing clouds of teargas.

"There were people on the street for 30 seconds before eating at the tables!"

It is claimed that the photograph was taken on Istiklal Street, just off Taksim Square.

18:45 GMT:
No political messages or banners have been wielded during the protest - only Taksim Platform banners and the national flag. The crowd had also been condemning the park's closure, chanting "open park, belonging to the public," according to Hurriyet.

18:30 GMT:

18:20 GMT:
The water cannon fired a few short bursts at a cluster of remaining protesters.The surrounding crowd started booing them. Some shouting and minor scuffles between individual police and protesters shortly followed.

Some groups of people have been shouting "where is the shampoo?" in response to the water cannon attacks.

18:00 GMT:
Remaining people in the area are continuing to chant, undeterred by the unleashing of water cannons less than half an hour ago.

17:45 GMT:
Police deployed the water cannon down a narrow side street into a dense crowd.

Screenshot courtesy of Dogan News Agency

17:39 GMT:
The square is drenched and almost empty but crowds linger in the surrounding streets.

Protesters had been throwing red carnations to police officers in an attempt to signify that they would like to keep the demonstration peaceful.

Protesters had been laying the flowers down in memory of those killed across the three weeks of anti-government action.

Only nine members of the Taksim Platform were allowed by Istanbul's Governor Office to lay their flowers down in Gezi Park itself, in memory of the three demonstrators and one policeman who have died over the course of the protests.

Screenshot courtesy of Dogan News Agency

17:35 GMT:
Police have turned the water cannon on protesters in Taksim square after attempting to disperse crowds by pushing them away.

"On Taksim the police disperse crowds"

17:30 GMT:
The police and a water cannon vehicle are both closing in on protesters, with some struggles between individual protesters and the wall of police shields.

17:25 GMT:

16:55 GMT:
Riot police are moving in on the demonstrators, greeted by a wave of loud boos from the crowd, who still vastly outnumber them.

"Pepper gas ole," the crowd chant.

16:45 GMT:
Eyewitnesses report that people are chanting "this is only the beginning of our struggle,” as they gather in the square. Water cannons and armored vehicles are on standby, with a heavy police presence also identifiable.

16:18 GMT:
Hundreds of people have gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Riot police are on standby.

15:25 GMT:

14:50 GMT: Erdogan is giving a speech on the Gezi Park protests, commenting that "the recent protests have from the beginning been carried out with malicious intentions," and accusing protesters of publishing fabricated news, "trampling on justice," and being "pawns" in a dirty game, Anadolu Agency reports. 

"It is a betrayal to show Turkish police as pro-violence in the international media," he said. Erdogan identified both winners and losers emerging from the protests, conceding that "Turkey's economy, tourism, as well as its international image and influence" had suffered as a result. He added that "Turkey's enemies" were the winners.

"Nobody but God will have the power to overthrow our government," Erdogan claimed.

He went on to declare that the protests in Turkey and Brazil were essentially the same thing.

"It was the same game being played on Brazil, and same symbols, same banners, and the same international media. They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey," he said.

12:00 GMT:
A demonstration has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday (local time) in Taksim Square, with other discussion forums being held across Istanbul's parks. Plans are also in place to lay carnations down.

Some non-confrontational methods of objection to the government have been attempted over the past few days, such as standing completely still.

11:15 GMT: 31 people were arrested across Ankara and Istanbul over the protests in the early hours of Saturday, bringing the total number to 55. The demonstrators stood accused of organizing demostrations and provoking violence during clashes with police. A small group assembled outside court to protest against the prosecution of people who had participated in the protests.

Clashes broke out again late on Friday night close to the US embassy in Ankara. Police deployed tear gas and watter cannons against protesters who had been making a blockade on the road. One protester reportedly passed out as a result of the gassing, according to Hürriyet.

11:00 GMT:
PM Erdogan's chief adviser has accused the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) of being opportunistic and taking advantage of the Gezi Park protests to further their own political agenda. "They intend to put the government under pressure in order to obtain benefits," Yalçın Akdoğan wrote in his Daily Star column, going on to comment that the BPD is ignoring the fact that the Gezi Park protesters are supposedly "staunchly against the process." The beginning of the second round of talks was announced on Friday. The PKK withdrew militants from Turkish soil on May 8. However, suspicions rose on Friday when a Turkish helicopter was shot at by terrorists in the south east of the country.

Saturday June 22

14:00 GMT:
Erdogan said at the AKP rally that "Taksim Square is not a place for demonstrations. Gezi Park is not the property of occupying groups." He went on to accuse protesters of using Gezi Park as a pretext to destroy Turkey's economy and democracy, according to Turkey's Anadolu Agency.

12:30 GMT:
Turkish PM Erdogan has addressed AKP supporters, saying that he knew the people were against protesters using violence. "Today, Anatolia and Thrace are joining together. [They] are rebelling against vandalism and barbarism," he said, according to Hürriyet. "Your riot is against rebels who use violence."

12:00 GMT:
Two Turkish channels have been fined for airing bad language while live-streaming protests in Istanbul, according to Hürriyet daily news. Ulusal TV and Beyaz TV were fined over 11,000 Lira each for live interviews where the speaker used offensive words, with one telling Erdogan to "**** off."

11:30 GMT:
Germany has summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about a government minister who criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel after she said she was appalled at the Turkish police's overly harsh treatment of protesters.

"If Mrs. Merkel looks into it, she will see that those who mess around with Turkey do not have an auspicious end," Turkey's minister for relations with the European Union, Egemen Bağış said Thursday. The response was described as "unacceptable" by a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson, according to Reuters.

Turkey is in talks over European Union membership, and Germany has blocked the next step in light of the country's approach to dealing with the unrest.

11:00 GMT
The 'Occupy Gezi' protests have cost Istanbul a reported €54.7 million in tourism, with over 215,000 reservations canceled between May 31 and June across 298 hotels in the city. Requests for future bookings have also fallen by an average of 55 percent.

02:55 GMT:
In the third week of protests, the Turkish government is applying preventative measures to quell public discontent. Heavy law enforcement presence is seen in Turkey as police trucks use water cannons and tear gas before clusters of protests gain the momentum.

“The police are trying to screw down the pressure on these protesters,” RT’s Tom Barton reported from the scene in Ankara, adding that the police have stopped crowds from forming as “trucks with water cannons charged up the street” spraying protesters. “A real liberal use of water canon there, stripping the bark of trees, leaving debris scattered in the roads,” Barton noted.

As patches of protesters fled to side streets, “a lot of gas use” was applied to disperse the activists. Barton explained that water canon vehicles “can also squirt tear gas from the sides of the truck.”

“Any protester approaching it gets a blast of this stuff in his face,”
Barton reported explaining that “all of this is forcing the protestors onto the side streets” as police also “fired gas canisters.”

Barton says this has further enraged the protesters as “evidence of heavy tactics by the police force that they criticize for protecting Prime Minister’s Erdogan authoritarian government.”

Friday, June 21

19:00 GMT:

Video: /files/news/1f/45/f0/00/original_turkey-protester-live.asf

15:30 GMT: Police raided tents set up in Izmir's Gündoğdu Square in support of the Gezi Park protests. Around 30 of the demonstrators who had been camping were detained by police after they began to fight back against the forced removal of their tents. The confrontation followed a previous attempt to converse with the police.

A further 13 protesters have been detained in Turkey for alleged vandalism, use of firebombs and inciting riots, according to the Andalous News Agency.

09:10 GMT:
Turkish police arrested more than 100 protesters in the western city of Izmir during a demonstration and carried out 15 house raids, local media reported on Thursday.

09:05 GMT: Police dispersed 5,000 demonstrators during overnight protests in the northern Turkish city of Eskisehir, Dogan news agency reported.

01:50 GMT: Turkish law enforcement has fired water cannon to stop hundreds of protesters marching on Ankara's streets against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK).  

“The police charged in here with two vehicles firing tear gas – everyone in this square chocking on that having to dive for cover” RT’s Tom Barton reported from the scene.

“The water canon blasting everything around left branches hanging off the trees, and debris, and water all over the streets,” Barton added.

RT’s correspondent said that the police launched a surprise assault on the protesters making them flee, “very shocked from the sudden onrush of these police vehicles.”

Earlier on Wednesday, thousands of activists flocked into Taksim Square in Istanbul as protesters held a candlelit vigil in Abbasaga Park for those killed during last week's clashes.

Video: /files/news/1f/45/f0/00/original_turkey-protest-0300.asf